Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What is on the Council agenda for Oct. 21? Stix and a Bridge.

Council meeting can be really, really boring if you don't know what the council is voting on. If you have your own copy of the Metro Council agenda and the staff analysis the meetings are still boring, just not really, really boring.

There are 14 appointments of boards and commissions to be confirmed. Since the Council never rejects or questions anyone, all will be rapidly confirmed.

There are 14 resolution on the consent agenda. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is

Ghost Dance
deemed non-controversial and it stays on consent if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Items on the consent agenda pass by a single vote rather than being voted on one at a time. However, any member may ask to be recorded "no" or may ask for a bill to be pulled off the consent agenda. These resolutions on the consent agenda spend a lot of money and they accept a lot of grant money, but I see nothing that I think will be controversial but I am pointing out a few that I find interesting:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1253 is part of the deal to build a new $35.5 million parking garage downtown. This resolution ups the price of the project to $42 million while reducing the number of parking spaces from 1183 to 1000. Still, the pro forma shows parking revenue should be sufficient to repay the bonds.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1254 appropriates $250,000 through a grant contract with Oasis Center to provide support for the Mayor’s Scholars Academy. The Scholars Academy is a free summer enrichment program to help students succeed in high school and
    prepare for college. In the most recent budget $650,000 was allocated for this program. In addition to the $250K, Oasis is providing another $185K in funding from other sources. I wonder if that other money is real money or in-kind services? I hope someone in Budget and Finance ask that question. I have written grants and reviewed grants. I know that some grant applications show an awfully lot of inflated "in-kind" match. Also, I wonder why this is not provided by the school system itself. Was a Request for Proposals issued or was Oasis awarded the grant without considering any other potential providers? Among the impressive members of the Board of Directors of Oasis is former Mayor Bill Purcell and Councilman Fabian Bedne.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1265 approves an agreement to between the state department of transportation (TDOT) and the Metro Arts Commission for the installation of the sculpture called ''Stixs" at the new Korean Veterans roundabout. That is the new roundabout near the Music City Center where 8th and Murfressboro Road come together. I am not opposed to public art. However, I think $750.000 is a lot of money to pay for 30 painted telephone poles. Now I know some people don't like the
    Schermerhorn fountain
    nude dancers at the Music Row roundabout. I like that one a lot. No, I don't wish they were wearing clothes. I also like that a philanthropist donated it rather than the city buying it. I also like that it is by a local artist. I think Ghost Dance across the river from the dead end of Lower Broad looks like some left over construction debris or a roller coaster under construction. I like both the fountain with the sculpture in front of the Schermerhorn and I like the one of the angle writing on a CD while looking at the Country Music Hall of Fame. I also like that they were not paid for with public money. I think we ought to rethink spending money on public art. I think some average citizens should sit on the board that makes the recommendations instead of people with an arts background, I think local artist or regional artist should be given preference and maybe from a selection of several they should be submitted to a referendum or a poll.  Assuming Stix is build we are going to put up with it forever. For $750K could we not have gotten a fountain or something better? Instead of spending public money, maybe the luxury of art in public places should be a civic project funded by donations. 
There are only three bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. They are all lumped together and passed as a group. Bills are not evaluated by the Council until second reading.

There are twelve bills on Second Reading and I don't find any of them of particular interest and don't see any of them as controversial.

There are seventeen bills on Third and final reading and only one of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-670 is the Gulch pedestrian bridge bill. It authorizes the acquisition of easements and right of ways to build the bridge.  The bridge is already in the capital improvement budget and funding is authorized, so if the Council wants to delay or kill the $16 million  bridge this is the opportunity to do it.  I am not opposed to the project. I think it would be nice addition to the growing downtown.  However, given that we have failed to build very many new sidewalks in residential neighborhoods and given the cumulative debt the city has taken on, I think this project should be put on hold maybe until after the next mayor is elected. The funding mechanism the mayor has proposed is Tax Increment Financing. TIF pays off the debt for the project with increased revenue generated by development attributable to the project.  We often finance projects like this.  In some cases the increased revenue would certainly not have occurred had not the project occurred. In the case of the pedestrian bridge that is a hard argument to make.  If financed by TIF, the debt for the project will be  paid
    The Gulch Pedestrian Bridge
    for by revenue from the area before those developments start paying money into the general fund. So, this is kind of like making a decision to pay for something out of one pocket versus a different pocket. It really doesn't make a lot of difference, it still cost the taxpayers money. When this was on second reading it passed by a voice vote and no one asked to have their vote recorded. Why, I don't know. It only takes five councilmen to ask for a roll call vote and there then must be a machine vote. Any member may ask to have their vote recorded. I will very disappointed if this is not a recorded vote. The council should not hide behind a voice vote on this issue. If a member of the Council is reading this, please call for a roll call vote. 
There are two memorializing resolutions on the agenda. A memorializing resolution simply expresses the will of the council. That however does not mean they are not important and should not be taken seriously. Sometimes there are national campaigns to get cities to all ask something of the federal government, such as last year when the Council passes a resolution asking for strict EPA enforcement of CO2 emissions.  I think the Council should refrain from expressing its will on national issues. It has enough to do managing city affairs. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1252 request President Obama and Congress "to select
    public infrastructure improvements as the priority activity of the United States to upgrade the current substandard infrastructure of the nation, strengthen the national economy, and support healthy and vibrant communities in the United States." 
    While our nation does have infrastructure problems, I don't think the Metro Council ought to be advising Congress of what the budget priorities should be.  We have elected Senators and Congressmen to make those decisions on our behalf. So, unless the Council is going to evaluate the entire federal budget and become as knowledgeable as Congress about the choices we face, then the Council should focus on the Metro budget and let Congress focus on the federal budget. I would vote against this if I were in the Council. This was on the agenda last meeting but was deferred. I hope this is defeated or withdrawn.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1268  A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Council to make Metropolitan Government General Sessions Court judicial elections nonpartisan. I am not sure how I feel about this. I would have to think about it. Republicans did not succeed in getting any of their nominees elected last time, and I am almost certain that some of the elected judges are Democrat in name only, so this may be good idea. Also, Council and Mayor run as non-partisan candidates, so why not candidates for judge?
Maybe the Gulch Pedestrian bridge could be deferred until the next mayor comes into office and Stix also deferred. Since the pedestrian bridge is a work of art rather than just a utilitarian sidewalk, maybe we could take the money in the public art sit aside, including the $750K for Stix, and spend it on the bridge.

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